Coping with procrastinations and paralysis - late diagnosis ADHD

A late diagnosis of ADHD can bring up a great deal of mixed emotions. It can be an explanation for a lot of life choices, the reason why you have struggled with relationships, finances, feeling overwhelmed, low self-esteem and the general feeling that life is an uphill struggle.


But what it can also bring up is one of the worst symptoms of ADHD, which is self-deprecation or, basically, giving yourself a really hard time and using negative internal dialogue. ”Why am I such a failure”, “I should be able to cope”, “Other people just get on with it, why can’t I?”.

Add this internal dialogue to already trying to get your head around your diagnosis and the result can often be procrastination and paralysis. 

What you will find has probably occurred with a late diagnosis is that, unaware that you are living with ADHD, you have devised your own coping strategies with some working better than others. You are naturally a survivor and a problem solver this will have evolved over the years through masking and finding ways to make it look like you are coping when inside you may have felt quite the opposite.

Now is the time to use self-compassion, to drop the mask and begin to live a life that is more authentic and useful to you. Time to end the people pleasing, the only person you need to please now is you. And by doing this you can begin to remove the pressure you have put on yourself over the years to be someone you are not, to accept what you cannot do but most importantly begin to recognise what you can do and the skills that you have amassed by being a neurodivergent person in a world that is built for a neurotypical.

Procrastination and paralysis

I have put these two together as I feel they often go hand in hand. So, what are they? 

Procrastination is, talking the talk – “I am going to”, “I would love to”, “ I really need to”, “Why can’t I just.” Most procrastinating will start with this type of inner questioning – talking about what you ‘need’ to be doing whilst doing anything else other than the required task.

And paralysis is just that, you are paralysed regarding getting things done. This can manifest in several different ways and to varying extremes. It can be mild, for instance needing to remove the washing from the machine but not being able to move off the sofa, to severe – unable to get out of bed. And when I say unable to get out of bed,  paralysis can be so severe that even moving from the foetal position can seem impossible.

Healthy solutions

ADHD is a complex multi-layered condition. The symptoms are varied and complex and what works for one person may not work for another. I was diagnosed myself in my late 40’s and it brought up a whole heap of mixed emotions. Through working on myself and working with clients I have found ways to ease the intensity of symptoms, to slow down my racing mind and to generally stop giving myself such a hard time.

Number one for me has been self-compassion. When I stopped and really looked at how I was talking to myself I felt a deep sorrow. And I see this in a lot of my client work, too. The issue with late diagnosis is that this negative internal dialogue will have been the norm for all your life.

The negative dialogue will have begun at a very young age often with a parent misunderstanding your behaviour and possibly seeing it as lazy or stubborn, “What is wrong with you?” “Why can’t you just...?”, “How many times do I need to tell you?” See how similar this is to the internal dialogue you now use as an adult? Add to this rejection sensitivity dysphoria, people pleasing and masking and it makes sense that your internal child is left battered and bruised by years of negative verbal attack and most of it is coming from within yourself.

What I have found works for me and my clients is a gentle approach, being gentle on oneself does not mean you are weak, far from it. Being gentle allows you the peace to put things straight, to see what you have to work with, to calm your mind and to allow you to be your strongest most productive self.

Where do you begin?

With paralysis, potentially the most debilitating symptom of ADHD, gently, lovingly and with self-compassion is where I have found the best place to begin. Imagine you are in the worst state of paralysis, lying in bed unable to move. Begin with your dialogue – look at the situation with compassionate curiosity, and talk to yourself as you would to someone you love.

Begin small. I use phrases like “Are you able to...?”, “Would it be possible to...?”, so this could start as small as “OK, I am struggling to get out of bed today” which shows non-judgemental curious acceptance of the situation I may then move onto ask myself “Are you able to begin to turn your body?” using gentle talk and reassurance. Sometimes giving it an approximate time can help, “It's 9 am now are you able to move your body to some degree by 9.15?”

Take the pressure off, try to shut out the world, instead of thinking “I need to be getting up to do...” stay exactly where you are in that acceptant state, “Right now I am here in my bed and I have managed to wake up” keep your mind there right with you in that moment.

The paralysis is there for a reason, it is your body telling you that you have overdone it you have been running on empty, overwhelmed by your environment. It is a wakeup call, learn to listen to your body. I find the phrase, “Right now I am exactly where I am meant to be” helps to take the pressure off and using these gentle techniques the paralysis and procrastination will begin to ease on their own. You are giving yourself the best dopamine hit, you are listening to and addressing your needs, and you are healing.

This is just a small part of explaining the work I do, if you would like to explore more self-compassionate techniques, connecting with your inner child and addressing negative internal dialogue, get in touch. Not only does it help with ADHD but also with any trauma recovery work. There is an inner child in you who would benefit so much if you could show them the compassion, kindness and love that you did not receive when you needed it most, this is your chance to be that loving parent to yourself.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S74
Written by Tanya Dobrovolskis
Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S74

I was diagnosed in my late 40's with ADHD and it brought such a surprising mix of emotions. This is what swayed me from purely person centred therapy to inner child work. Self - compassion, is an extremely powerful tool to help with issues like ADHD and personal trauma. Learn to be more productive by starting from a place of acceptance.

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